September in our part of the world brings to mind sad memories. By our part of the world I mean the North Atlantic, coastal, maritime parts of the world like Halifax, Peggy’s Cove and New York. Areas that are home to small fishing towns which depict scenes like the one above begin north of our province in Newfoundland and sail down the coast until you reach Pennsylvania. We find ourselves sharing not only George’s Bank, but a way of life by the ocean, a rich New World French / British colonial history and a connection among maritimers that can run deeper than nationalities.
Looking at the map its easy to imagine a deep connection among the Atlantic Cities of North America. As the crow flies, or the ship sails, the distances between great American metropolitans like Boston or New York and Nova Scotia are shorter than to our own nation’s capital. But distance isn’t the only reason we find ourselves close.
On December 6 1917 Halifax, Nova Scotia was the unfortunate host the the largest pre-nuclear man made explosion. It leveled our city and displaced thousands of people. Among the first responding cities to that disaster were those prominent American ones from New England as well as Fredericton, Montreal and Toronto.
On September 2nd 1998 a Swiss Air flight from New York, flight number 111, was destroyed when it crash landed into the Atlantic off the coast of Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia. Twelve days later the USS Grapple from Pennsylvania was assisting the Canadian Navy, Coast Guard and hundreds of local volunteers in the recovery effort.
On September 11th 2001, after all the air traffic was grounded, Nova Scotian homes had an opportunity to repay some of the American travelers diverted to our province, by taking them in after the hotels had filled.
Today we took a drive to Peggy’s Cove and stopped at the Swiss Air Flight 111 memorial. It is a beautiful memorial and people come from all around the world to venerate it and lay flowers in the large granite bolder, carved out for that purpose.
On September 11th 2001, the world’s heart was broken. Three years earlier on September 2nd, the hearts of the loved ones from Swiss Air Flight 111, were equally affected.
Nova Scotia has a strong connection to the sea. We play in it, we harvest from it, we industrialize it and we depend on it. Standing in front of it on a windy September 11th I was confronted by its power and awed my its beauty.
In Nova Scotia we have over 150 still functioning lighthouses. Like the one at Peggy’s Cove, each of them attempt to guide us away from the shore, where the rough waters threaten to crash our ships. Peggy’s Cove and September are reminders that much of what happens to us is out of our control and tragic. But the lighthouse is a reminder that when tragedy strikes we have an opportunity to build a tall beacon in recognition of that which has damaged us and in service to those who may sail similar waters in the future. We build these bright lights atop jagged rocks in the sea to say take caution in your approach, these are dangerous waters but if you navigate them properly, you’ll find calm, peace and shelter on the other side.